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Field notes: Deer season looks fairly normal

Nearly half a million firearms deer hunters are preparing for the firearms deer season, which opens Nov. 6. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife managers report favorable weather so far this year, and good opportunities to harvest deer in most areas.

Of note this year is the DNR warning that hunters know the boundaries of the deer permit areas and any chronic wasting disease regulations that apply where they hunt. Information can be found on the DNR website. Here is the expectation for hunters in the northeast part of the state:

Last winter was generally mild throughout the northeast region while the previous seasons were more severe. Because white-tailed deer are adaptable and highly mobile, this year’s drought is not expected to negatively impact deer populations.

Drought conditions were expected to increase access opportunities in some areas like wetland, stream and lakeshore habitats, but a wet September means hunter access is expected to be close to normal.

In the northeast region, three interrelated factors have the most impact on the deer population: forest habitat quality, winter severity and predation.

Long-term trends in forest management have less impact on the deer herd when conditions are mild or normal because deer are able to move easily to find food and cover. During severe winters, thermal cover and forage availability become more important. Deer have more difficulty moving around and may become more susceptible to predation. Forest cover, food availability and predator numbers, as well as hunting pressure, vary across the landscape and can make a big difference on deer populations at a local level. Deer populations are typically higher on private land.

Hunters are expected to encounter the most deer in areas of mixed habitat where there is a blend of forest and open fields of private land. Areas farther north with extensive public lands are still struggling to recover from past harsh winters. It’s important to acknowledge that the deer population recovery is typically faster in the south and southwestern part of the region, while their recovery generally takes longer when moving to the north and northeast.

Bag limits will be conservative again this fall in most deer permit areas to give local deer populations the chance to grow more in areas where their numbers are still below the population goals.

River area restored

One of Minnesota DNR’s largest habitat restoration projects is complete. The three-year, $18 million construction project in the St. Louis River estuary near Duluth has restored 230 acres of coastal wetland habitat at Kingsbury Bay and Grassy Point.

Residents and visitors at the locations may see contractors removing large equipment from the area over the next several weeks.

The Kingsbury Bay and Grassy Point project areas were identified in 2013 as two of 17 sites located in the St. Louis River Area of Concern in need of habitat restoration. Seven habitat restoration projects already have been completed by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, DNR, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Wisconsin DNR. Restoring these sites brings the St. Louis River AOC closer to removal from the binational list of most impaired regions on the Great Lakes.

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